March 6, 2013 in News
Senior police officers have told the Government it will have to draft in private security companies to stop the planned badger culls being overrun by animal rights activists.
The two forces involved believe the operation will be a “nightmare” and have told civil servants at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that they do not have the manpower to cope.
Last week the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, confirmed that the culls would go ahead in two trial areas in Gloucestershire and Somerset.
Almost 5,000 badgers will be shot in an unspecified six-week period between June and January. Animal rights activists have said they will target the landowners involved and do all they can to protect the animals during the night-time cull by marksmen.
“We welcome this like a hole in the head,” a source close to Gloucestershire Constabulary said. “The amount of policing that’s going to go into this is like a nightmare.”
Both forces are understood to be unhappy at having to divert officers from their normal duties after budget cuts.
Gloucestershire Constabulary is in talks with Defra over the cost and manpower burdens of policing the culls. A senior figure familiar with the negotiations said the operation would place a “massive strain” on the force’s already stretched resources and involve drafting in hundreds of officers from other counties.
“We’re expecting Defra to pay the full costs,” he said. “It’s going to be millions. The police are not the private security service for Defra.”
Gloucestershire Constabulary has been under pressure after having its budget cut by almost £20 million in the past two years. Last year two chief constables left within six months, with one warning that the cuts had left the force on a “metaphorical cliff edge”.
Superintendent Kevin Instance, of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said that all “additional” policing costs would be recouped from the Government, but protecting the cull was a matter for Defra.
Defra denied that it had agreed to hire private security firms. “It will be the responsibility of the companies and landowners carrying out the culls to provide their own security,” it said.